I have never seen an episode of Mad Men. I know the basic premise of the series. I know about the personality traits of some of the characters. I know that it's a period piece set in the 1960s. And I know I hate it.
I have been in the advertising and marketing field, in one capacity or another, for over thirty years. For a long time, the only frame of reference for anyone outside of my chosen profession was Darrin Stephens, from the fantasy sitcom Bewitched. Darrin worked for the respected advertising agency McMann and Tate, directly reporting to clueless, brown-nose partner Larry Tate himself. When it came to pitching one of Darrin's ideas to a potential client, Larry Tate would ram his nose up the client's ass as far as he could wedge it. He would belittle Darrin's ideas, standing alongside the client with a sneer of condemnation, until he realized the client actually liked Darrin's ideas, then he'd become Mr. Jump-On-The-Bandwagon. He was a two-faced, spineless dickhead. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the majority of Darrin's ideas were hatched by his wife Samantha, a smoking hot witch who was way out of Darrin's league. (Both Darrins, as a matter of fact.) It was pure fiction, but it was as close as Mr. and Mrs. Average American was gonna get to how a real ad agency works.
And that was it. That is, until 2007, when Mad Men came along to ruin things for creative people everywhere. Mad Men was presented as a realistic, behind-the-scenes look at how the cut-throat world of advertising really operates. It was time to "pull back the curtain" on how ad campaigns are hashed-out, revised, refined and presented to clients — all amid incessant drinking, smoking, adultery and double-crossing. It was cool, fun, sexy, enticing . . and easy.
But, Mad Men created more than just entertainment. It created a monster. It gave birth to armchair advertising experts — something it did not purposely set out to do. Now, any shlub who has ever viewed even a portion of an episode of Mad Men — even if they began watching in the middle of Season Three — fancies themselves an authority on ad design, concept and development. So, now I hear regular, unsolicited input from viewers of Mad Men, using terms like "spacial relationship," "let's sell the sizzle," and "this copy needs to be sexier." Do people who watch CSI barge in on police investigations with welcome constructive observations? Do viewers of House or Gray's Anatomy offer astute diagnosis while hanging around their local emergency room? So, why single out artists and writers as open targets?
I went to art school for four years. I worked long and hard for three decades for over a dozen employers and countless freelance clients. I don't feel I have to give serious consideration to suggestions from someone whose marketing experience came from parking their ass on the sofa and watching Don Draper puff Luckys. The attitude has become: "I saw a TV show about guys who come up with ads. I can do that! How tough could it be?"
Boy, I sure could use a little of Samantha's magic right about now.